The effects of dietary protein on the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and especially, lipids were investigated in genetically obese Zucker rats and their lean siblings. For 40 days the rats received diets containing 15%, 64%, or 82% protein, included at the expense of cornstarch. In the obese animals, the high-protein diets led to decreased food intake and weight gain. While these diets decreased the activities of lipogenic enzymes along with the lipid gain, they did not decrease the final body-fat content. The increase protein intake stimulated hepatic ureogenesis and gluconeogenesis. Lipolysis was stimulated, as demonstrated by an accumulation of ketone bodies in the liver. Blood levels of triacylglycerols, free glycerol, and nonesterified fatty acids were concomitantly decreased, which suggests an accelerated turnover of lipids. Whatever the composition of the diet, total energy retention of the lean rats was always less than that of the obese rats. The changes observed on high-protein diets were essentially the same for the two groups, except that the final body-content of lipids in the lean rats was significantly lower. In the absence of exogenous carbohydrate, the lean rats were barely able to retain nitrogen and to maintain hepatic lipogenesis. Unlike the rats from other strains, the lean Zucker rats could not adapt to a low-carbohydrate diet; this failure may be due to a metabolic disorder.